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law | opinions & advice | applying to law school
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While grades and LSAT scores are the chief criteria for admission to law school, a strong recommendation won't be ignored. Admissions committees consider these letters a valuable corroboration of your ability to succeed in law school.
Many professors develop a talent for writing anonymous recommendations for students they don't quite recall. This kind of letter won't do you much good. If the professor knows you, his/her personal recommendation will be more specific and thus more convincing.
Don't be afraid to ask! Even unapproachable academic titans will happily dash off a quick letter on your behalf. Most consider it part of their job.
Choose at least one professor from your major field. An enthusiastic endorsement from a professor in your field of interest is a sign that your choice of academic specialty was more than a random selection. It's also a good idea to choose a professor whose course you did well in (i.e. a person who won't immediately associate your name with the letter C).
If your recommender can refer to a successful project or initiative you are involved with (or even a great paper you wrote), your recommendation will be strengthened considerably. It's not a bad idea to give them a tangible reminder of your achievements inside and outside the classroom when you place your request.
Finally, remember to keep this part of your application in perspective. If your numbers are strong, a good recommendation can help push you into the "admit" pile. But even a glowing review of your personality and potential won't redeem you if you earned low grades throughout college.